Interview With Nnamdi Gwacham, Overcoming Adversity to Pursue a Passion
By Karl Hughes, Director of News, Uloop.com
One of my favorite parts about my work with Uloop is getting to meet and learn about inspiring young students, and Nnamdi’s (pronounced Nawm-dee) story is one of the most incredible I’ve heard in a while. After his family moved to the United States from their hometown of Onitsha, Nigeria, Nnamdi’s parents worked extremely hard just to get by.
Their efforts and encouragement showed him that anything is possible, and after playing NCAA Division I football for Utah State, being named to the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award in 2009, tutoring his fellow athletes, heading the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and being chosen for Tylenol’s Future Care Scholarship in 2012, With plans to complete his doctorate in medicine in 2016, Nnamdi has surely proven himself to be a great model for future students.
While researching past winners of the Tylenol Future Care Scholarship, which Nnamdi received last year, I had the opportunity to ask Nnamdi some questions, and hear more about his story last week. You can also see a video of Nnamdi talking about his experience here.
Who in your life has inspired you to keep pursuing your goals? Do you have specific friends or family members that pushed or encouraged you to higher education?
That’s easy – my parents are my biggest advocates. When we moved to the United States from Nigeria in ’99, we had nothing. They worked multiple minimum wage jobs and managed to provide for us. All they asked was that we take our education seriously and advantage of the opportunities we had available to us.
I have 4 other siblings and 2 of them have graduated from college. One is a junior in college and the other will be starting college this fall. I think that if you were to ask each of us, we’ll all say that our drives have been fueled partly by our individual goals as well as our parents’ dedication and hard work to making sure that we succeed.
How did you choose your college? What factors influenced your decision?
I was a student-athlete – so I was motivated tremendously by scholarship opportunities. I chose to go to Utah State because of the proximity to home. I was 17 years old so I didn’t want to be on the other side of the country.
Tell me about when you first realized you wanted to pursue a medical profession.
I can think of an experience I had as a kid growing up in Nigeria that piqued my interest in healthcare. I had an injury and was pretty much told that I couldn’t see a doctor because there weren’t any doctors available. That struck a chord in me as a 10-year old, but I don’t think it really resonated until I broke my leg playing football in college. I had the privilege of a great medical team surrounding me that cared for me. When I got better, I got to work with those individuals so I really got a look into medicine as both a physician and a patient.
If you could have your dream job, what would you do?
I don’t think anyone actually gets paid to go to as many basketball and football games as possible do they? If I could manage that, I would be a sports junkie. My life would consist of working out and going to as many games as possible.
However, I don’t think that could beat being a team physician for the Green Bay Packers!
Do you have a favorite moment in college yet? Has anything stood out to you as especially awesome or fun?
So many good memories and moments. I remember my first collegiate catch in a football game [it was one-handed by the way]. I remember staying up late to study for Organic Chemistry exams with my study group, the road trips, the stadiums, the games, my teammates. It’s hard to pick one favorite moment.
I guess my one most favorite would be when I got the call informing me of my acceptance to medical school. I remember it vividly: I jumped up in the air and my hand touched the ceiling and my colleagues were just as excited as I was because they knew what had just happened. It was a phenomenal day.
What advice would you give to a High Schooler or new college student looking to pursue a profession like yours?
I think the most important thing is to allow yourself to be intrigued.
I had the best Anatomy teacher in high school in Mr. Chandler and I was always so eager to learn something new each and every day. My intrigue grew into a fascination and it continued to develop in college. As a freshman on campus, I hardly knew my left from my right. You’re in a totally different environment, away from family, and you’re expected to be able to manage things on your own. I felt overwhelmed within the first 3 weeks of college and I found myself calling my mom for reassurance.
There will be times in college when you feel like the whole world is on top of you. It’s important to have a great support system along the way – people that encourage you and people that you can talk to when things get a little difficult.
Nnamdi Gwacham was one of the 2012 winners of Tylenol’s Future Care Scholarship, and they’re taking applications for 2013 now through June 15th. $250,000 will be divided up among forty students pursuing a career in the healthcare industry. Apply today.